Dexter’s My Boy

One day about 10 years ago my wife, Cassi, called from work to say there was an ad on the internal classified board. A woman was giving away a dog, still a puppy, really, not quite a year old. She contacted the owner to learn more. He was a good boy, the woman said, but her husband didn’t like him. The husband had not been kind.

The dog was in his kennel all day long while she was at work, got out for about an hour in the evening but never much more because of the husband. He was spending more than 22 hours a day in that kennel.

She wasn’t going to give the dog to just anyone, she said. She was hoping for a family with children, for one thing.

We already had a dog and were fostering others. But we couldn’t just let this poor animal spend 95 percent of his life in a cage. We went to meet him.

There’s this dog.

I held back in the entryway, not wanting to frighten the poor guy.

The woman brought the dog, who she called “Sparky,” down the stairs. He was a handsome fella, a coat of brown and tan mixed with grey and big, sparkling brown eyes. He went to Cassi and the kids immediately, so happy he could hardly contain himself.

I held back still, then crouched and made that little kissing noise with my lips. He came over slowly. I let him smell me, spoke softly, then stroked his neck and ears. He came closer, sniffed some more. Licked my hand.

The woman was surprised. “He doesn’t usually like men,” she said, watching carefully.

We all looked at each other and agreed without a word. The dog was coming home with us.

There’s this dog.

He’s a cross between a Schnauzer and a Yorkie – a Schnorkie.

The first thing we agreed on was that he was no “Sparky.” He was full of life and happy, for sure, but he was more serious at times than that name. It just didn’t fit his personality.

Depending on who you ask, Dexter’s name came either from the Showtime serial killer or the Capuchin monkey in the “Night at the Museum” films. Either way, everyone was happy, including, it seemed, Dexter.

He fit right in with our other dog, Tré, a Pomeranian-Poodle (Pomapoo) mix who we’d sort of “rescued” from a woman who was obviously running a puppy mill out of her living room in rural Minnesota a couple of years before. Between the two of them, Dex took the alpha role.

He was a little slower giving me his full trust than the other family members, but considering his previous home life, that didn’t take too long, either.

There’s this dog.

Not only did he give me his trust, he became my nearly constant companion and guardian.

Since I worked at home, the two dogs hung out in my office most of the time while Cassi was at work and the kids were at school. Even when Tré left the room, Dexter stayed close. If I went upstairs, he went upstairs. If I went to the bedroom, he went to the bedroom. To the bathroom, he waited right outside the door. To the backyard, he followed.

Before long he was lying on the bathmat any time I took a shower, either guarding me from anyone who might approach or making sure I didn’t go anywhere without him. He slept between Cassi and me at night.

About a year after we first brought Dex home, we fostered, then decided to keep, a female dachshund. Zoey. She became the alpha among the three of them.

But Dex was still my guy, always hanging close, watching what I was doing, ready to go if I headed somewhere.

The past couple of years, he’s been coming to me every morning when I sit down at my desk, begging to be picked up. I put him on my lap for a couple of minutes, speak to him in a soft voice. Then he’s ready to be put down, either so he can jump up on the soft chair next to my desk or lie down on the dog bed on the floor.

Tré and Zoey go to the living room. But not Dex. He’s always there.

There’s this dog.

Dexter’s a bit of a rapscallion.

He used to wait until the family got up from lunch or dinner, then put his front paws on a chair and stick his head up above the tabletop. He wasn’t tall enough to get it all the way over, but somehow he found a way to tilt his head just right and lick crumbs off of the surface. A couple of years ago he quit being coy and started doing it while we’re still sitting right there.

One time I caught him standing on top of the dining room table. He had just eaten ¾ of a hamburger that was left over from lunch that we absentmindedly left out. He licked his lips and looked at me as if to say, “What? You’re the one who left it here.”

He’s always tearing through the yard when we let him out, barking at the top of his lungs for the first minute or so, then settling down to do his business. We joke that he’s making sure there’s no joy in the neighborhood.

But he’s also the sweetest dog you’d ever want to meet, one of those who you joke with strangers, “Watch out. He might lick you to death.”

There’s this dog.

A couple of weeks ago we noticed Dexter wasn’t right, so I took him to the vet. He knew something was up. “Don’t worry, Dexie boy,” I told him. “We’re just going to get you some antibiotics. They’ll fix you right up.”

The vet told me Dexter was extremely ill, that he wouldn’t last much longer. Two weeks, maybe. A month? Doubtful.

I was speechless.

We’ve treated our Dexter like a king as he’s gotten sicker. But he’s feeling so bad and so sad. Worse every day. For the past few days he’s been too weak to go up or down stairs.

I’ve been carrying him.

There’s this dog.

Dexter died today. 

All five of us – Cassi, Saela, Martin V, Mira and me – were with him. I held his face in my hands and looked into his eyes as he went to sleep.

I cried. We all did.

This is one of my saddest days.

There’s this dog.

This is not a unique story. Millions of people have loved their dogs and were broken-hearted when their pets died.

But for me, Dexter was one of a kind.

I liked his little rebel streak. I liked that he guarded me from harm and followed me everywhere. I loved that he was one of the closest living souls to me for most of every day.

Dexter was my boy. He was my pal, my buddy. Besides Cassi and the kids, he was my best friend.

I’ve always been certain Dexter would outlast the other two by years. I never thought the contraction – “There’s this dog” – would change from “There is this dog” to “There was this dog” for him first, or that “Dexter is my boy” would become “Dexter was my boy” so soon.

But today that’s what I have to say.

There’s this dog.

If there is a heaven, dogs like Dexter go there first. If there is a heaven, he’s there now, waiting at the gates for me to show up.

I am going to miss him. Horribly. Already do.

I love you, Dexter. Always.

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Martin C. Fredricks IV

Martin C. “Red” Fredricks IV here. I’m husband to an amazing woman who is also my best friend, dad to three outstanding kids, Fargoan (North Dakota, that is), proud introvert, veteran messaging strategist/copywriter, blogger ( nonprofit founder ( and big-time reader. As they say, if you're gonna write good stuff, you have to read good stuff. A ginger, too - ergo the "Red" - although some of it's going white. Cinnamon-Sugar, I call it. Tattooed to boot; seven so far. At age 54, I'm stilling crankin' AC/DC & Metallica, but now and again I spin some Eric Church and Black Uhuru, too. I love hanging out with my (much) better half, spending time with our kids, writing, hiking, riding my mountain bike and reading.


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